The Introvert’s Guide to Getting Promoted: Step One

The best CEOs make talent management a priority – I believe this wholeheartedly.  When I say “a priority” I mean they make it one of their top three agenda items in every staff meeting and they give it adequate time for review and discussion.

Great CEOs and their staffs are continually ensuring that they have the right people in the right roles – roles that are aligned with their strengths and that they are providing opportunities for growth to high potential people in the organization.

What does this mean for you as an introvert?

About midway through my career at Baxter I had the privilege of working at the Baxter Leadership Institute – a self-contained training and development arm of Baxter Healthcare – as an executive trainer.  One of the training programs we offered to executives focused on executive leadership styles, and involved having each executive in the class take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

I remember very vividly that those who were more likely to become executives and CEOs were those who were natural extraverts rather than introverts.  Said another way, almost every executive taking the course was an extravert.  I knew that as an introvert I’d have to “step beyond my comfort zone” throughout my career in order to be seen as someone who would excel in leadership positions.

So I did.

I focused on three areas that took me outside my comfort zone as an introvert that I believe were instrumental to me being promoted 8 times in the 12 years I was at Baxter Healthcare, taking on increased financial and relational responsibility with each advancement. I’ll share one area of focus (one step) each day for the next three days… I hope you’ll find my own experiences and insights valuable!


This does not come easily for introverts.  Why? As Wikipedia states, “Extraverts recharge and get their energy from spending time with people, while introverts recharge and get their energy from spending time alone.”

This is where a concerted effort to network and “extend yourself” comes in.  Let me be very clear – being an introvert is not at all the same thing as being shy.  Many introverts are not shy at all, and I would count myself among them.  Rather, whereas extraverts tend to become energized by being around others, we have to work harder to be comfortable in settings where we are interacting with more than just one or two other people.

But, to be seen as a leader in the organization you first must be seenExecutives must know who you are – you need to be on their “radar screen” as they consider how best to deploy talent in their organization.


  1. Have a conversation with your boss about how you’d like to do some networking within your organization – and how it will help you be more effective in your role.
  2. Make a list of people who are a level to two above you that you do not get a lot of interaction with and who are considered respected leaders that you would like to meet.
  3. Consider asking your boss to make the introductions for you.  If s/he says yes then they are invested in your success. :)
  4. Email each of these leaders separately and ask if they’d be willing to “grab a quick cup of coffee with you.”  Try something along the lines of, “I am intrigued by what you’re doing in Project X and would love to see if I may be of help to you in some way…” Or let them know you have an idea you’d like to run by them, or that you’d like their advice on something…whatever is most comfortable for you and is a genuine reflection of you and your style.  Most of the people on your list will gladly accept if you ask for just a “quick cup” of their time, and it will give you the opportunity to get to know this person one-on-one, which is how you’re much more comfortable, right?!
  5. Always end the coffee/meeting with, “how can I be of help to you?”  Most people are honored to be asked and it will stand out in their minds.  They may even ask how they can be of help to you – have an answer for this ready just in case! Even if it’s just an introduction to someone else in the organization you’d like to meet or some advice on one of your key projects, be ready to respond if you are asked…
  6. Thank them for their time!  Send a hand-written thank you note – again you’ll stand out and the note will be appreciated.  It may even stay on their desk for a while –keeping you top of mind.
  7. As much as the larger, company networking events are more draining for introverts – ALWAYS GO.  Make a plan of who you definitely want to talk with and what you might want to say to them (thank them for something, comment on something that inspired you, an idea you have, a book you read that they might like, whatever it might be).  Don’t leave the event until you have completed your plan. I can virtually guarantee that if you complete your event networking plan you’ll leave the event feeling better about it than you might have ever imagined before and not nearly as drained.
  8. Use these larger opportunities to reinforce the relationships that began over coffee and as opportunities to extend them further.  You may even discover that some of the leaders you had coffee with will use these larger events as an opportunity to introduce you to others in their own network – providing another chance for you to make a good impression and further your reach on the “radar screen.”
  9. Use “volunteer” opportunities within and outside of the company for more visibility.  I volunteered on a “Reward & Recognition” team within my business division that not only provided the opportunity for me to work with some people I never would have met otherwise, but provided additional visibility during quarterly “all employee” meetings when our team gave out the awards for teamwork and contributions over the past quarter.  I also used my role as the Sponsorship Chairperson for my local American Cancer Society Relay for Life event as an opportunity to email our CEO and ask (given Baxter is a health care organization) for sponsorship dollars. I even extended him an invitation to attend the event.  I expected an email back from his Executive Assistant and got one back directly from our CEO instead – trying to get it on his calendar and authorizing the sponsorship.  Use your best judgment in regard to something like this in your company.


Again, great CEOs make talent management a priority in their companies, and this means leaders are constantly evaluating team members a few “layers down” for advancement opportunities.

The more visibility you have to organizational leaders the more likely they are to consider you for roles of increasing responsibility – and the more likely you are to get promoted. Find the ways most comfortable for you, as an introvert, to gain this visibility!

Are these suggestions helpful?  How will you use them, if at all?  What other ideas for visibility can you suggest?  Please share your thoughts in the comments…I learn so much from my readers!

TOMORROW: STEP TWO of The Introvert’s Guide to Getting Promoted…This post was initially inspired by my friend Mack Collier’s “The Introvert’s Guide to Speaking” post, which in turn inspired my post titled, “You’re Just Not That Into Me: The Introvert’s Guide to Attending a Conference.”

UPDATE: My new eBook, “The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership” is NOW AVAILABLE! You may Download it at for only $7.99 or BUY IT at Amazon for Kindle! 

This 60+ page eBook is for introverts who want to use their introversion to their advantage in business and leadership, and for extroverts who lead introverts and wish to be more effective leaders.

(I’d also be honored if you’d consider subscribing here!)

…Photo is One Step by s-a-m.


  1. This INTP salutes you. Your tips are practical and actionable. And ones that I have had to consciously employ to varying degrees over the years while recognizing that they came effortlessly to others. At 1-3% of the population (depending on whose numbers you trust) we INTPs are a unique group. Most don’t believe me when I say that I am introverted because I can be witty, engaging and charming…on occasion. And those occasions are typically with trusted friends. My natural work style is quiet, reflective and rooted in observation and “processing” of information. This can be offputting to a room full of extraverts that are happily sharing every thought that pops into their head (I say this in a very loving way). Viva La Difference! And thanks for sharing ways to overcome.

    • Lauren,

      This INFJ salutes you back! Thank you so much for taking the time to comment – I really appreciate it. I think you’ll be able to relate to Step Two – which gets at what you are talking about here. And yes, we introverts do adapt nicely, don’t we?

      Thanks again, Lauren – I sincerely appreciate it!

  2. Lisa,
    I think if you asked most of my family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances they would probably tell you that I am more of an introvert than an extrovert. On the other hand, once I am inclined to step out of my comfort zone, then I become the go-to person in the organization.

    Here are a few things to know about me: My husband and I actually met our current business partner (of 10 years) at an Executive Leadership Training seminar. It was 1980 and both my husband and Dick were part of middle management of Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO). The training took place at ARCO’s Executive Training facility in Santa Barbara, CA. It was a two week course, with employees flown in from all over the world, the second week of the course they brought in the spouses. Yes, indeed, I needed to be trained on how to be a Corporate Executive’s wife!!!

    I am familiar with the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator. I worked for company that actually made all of their new hires take this “test.” It sometimes bothered me that the test results could control your chances of promotion for the rest of your corporate career with that company. I think sometimes corporations don’t realize that not everyone wants to listen to or follow and extrovert.
    But here is my best life story about how I made myself visible in an organization. It was 1978. I was a consumer loan officer for Crocker National Bank in Los Angeles, CA. I worked as a “floating” loan officer, which meant that I would fill in for loan officers that were going on vacation, sick leave, maternity leave, etc. It was a fun job, I was able to meet a lot of different people and I never got bored. At the time I was assigned to a branch in Altadena, CA. I was filling in for an Assistant Branch Manager who had suffered a heart attack. About five weeks into this assignment the branch was robbed, with the masked bandits jumping the counters wielding sawed-off shotguns and ordering everyone to get on the floor.

    After the culprits left the bank it was my duty to call “Headquarters” to report the robbery and to ask for a robbery team to be dispatched to meet with the FBI. As luck would have it, the gentleman that took the phone call was the Executive Vice President – Consumer Lending. I had never met him, but I knew of him.

    In my telephone conversation, the EVP finally said to me: “What do you want to do when you grow up?” I responded: “I want your job or I at least I want to work directly for you!”

    Within two weeks, he personally visited the branch, sent in internal auditors to check my work quality and then made me an offer to work directly for him. New position: Assistant Vice President, District Retail Banking Specialist.

    I agree; great CEOs are always on a talent search. So you need to know who is in your molecule and who interacts with those in your molecule. Be available to get involved and be supportive. But, as one of our mutual “friends” said: sooner or later you need to “Make the ASK!”

    • Judy,

      I just know you and I are meant to meet and share all kinds of amazing stories some day! Kudos to you for your smarts and your boldness. As usual, you are way ahead of me – we’ll get to “asking” tomorrow…!

      Thank you, as always, for sharing your experiences and insights with me and the other readers!

  3. Great read Lisa. It reminds me a lot of what we did in the mentoring program at Microsoft. The simple, but occasionally difficult thing for people to do is … ASK.

    Which reminds me — maybe I should write a blog about the Three Best Things of Working at Microsoft.
    Jeff Shuey´s last blog post ..Ignite Seattle — It’s Your Move

    • Thanks, Jeff!
      And yes, you should. :)

      Great point about asking…I’ll be getting there tomorrow!

      Thank you, as always, for your time and support,

  4. David Kemper says:

    Great post, thanks! And a good push!

    As an ENFP (flaming E) I don’t think I’m ready to let “I”s off the hook for networking and communicating. Just because it takes energy doesn’t mean its not a responsibility. As Garry Trudeau said “America is a place where failure to promote onesself is akin to being anti-social.”

    Of course, we “E”s are responsible for reflecting, listening – and waiting – for “I”s to weigh in before reflexing forward. For us, that takes a lot of energy!

    Love your blog.

    • David,

      Agreed – we are absolutely not off the hook. I think that for I’s though, thinking about networking in a way that is not so daunting is the first step towards making it an integral part of their career.

      Thanks so much for the kind words about my blog – it loves you back! :)

  5. This trio is a hugely helpful step-by-step because you gave your own real examples. So well done! This INFJ thanks you! (And there aren’t that many of us).
    I’d like to make one suggestion. It was hard for me to get to the subsequent articles from the first, because you don’t have date navigation on your site. Now that you are finished writing all three, could you link to the next one through the “Tomorrow:” sentence? That would be SO useful!

    • Thank you so much from a fellow INFJ!!

      You’re right – I think we’re about 1% of the population… :)

      I created those links – thank you so much for the suggestion. And I think this template didn’t come with the date stamp because the date is on the “leather pad.” But if you know a plugin I can add to enable this I would very much welcome your suggestion!

      Thank you so much for reading, for your very kind comment and for taking the time to write – I sincerely appreciate it!

  6. Laura Austin says:

    This is great. Such good advice. I think I am an ENFP, but become increasingly shy when it comes to inter-company events and think this led me to be passed over for promotion in my last company. I am about to start a new role in a great company with potential promotional opportunities and will be following this advice closely. Many thanks :)

    • Hi Laura,

      You’re certainly not the first “E” I’ve heard this from. Sometimes business pressure changes the dynamic and makes it more challenging for all of us to be visible.

      I’m thrilled and honored to know that you’ll be using the advice as you start your new role. I wish you the very best of success and real fulfillment with your new company! Have a spectacular holiday season…

  7. Yes, I’m one of those introverts that mostly seemed to get left on the back burner whenever promotions came around. The only instances where I did get promoted is when my employer had worked closely with me and knew me very well. I have seen good executives that are introverts but they are few and far between. Great points in your article. Some other helpful points on introversion can be found at:


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